Quick thoughts on Milan

Seven days after getting back from a half-recreational, half-business family trip to Milan, Italy, I think I’ve finally got the sleep hours re-banked to share some short insights. I’d been to Italy along the Italian Riviera and in Venice before, but this was my first time to Milano — and my first time trying to make a weeklong trip abroad work while exploring one-on-one with a 16-month-old.

It was a great expedition. The architecture, the artwork, the history, and the people were overwhelmingly beautiful on a daily basis. I’d hoped to have some more sunlight, but unfortunately the rain drove us inside for much of four out of the six days that we got to spend there. The nice side of that deal was that we got to learn how few Milanese patrons show up to the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna on an alternatingly overcast and rainy day.

And by the way, see the modern art museum in Milan. The Picasso, Gauguin, and Boccioni works were all rich and worth the visit, but the real surprise of the day — in addition to the yard of flamingos down the street — was the slender hallway of Toulouse-Lautrec items, including some ink illustrations that brought me a few steps closer to the personalities in his faces than I’d ever been before.

The rain again put a damper on the Naviglio Grande, a spot that some friends had highly recommended. As a result the sidewalks and bridges were a little empty when we arrived, but I did catch the end of a storm at the right moments as sun came through and cafes began setting up for the their aperitivo customers. (Sidenote: Aperitivo time is one of the best reasons to spend time in Milan, for the socializing, for the small plates of incredible things that come served alongside the drinks, and for the people-watching that can be done on any given patio. Moreover, you can by three-packs of single-serving Aperol spritzers at the grocery stores, which just wonderful.)

As for the architecture, the Duomo di Milano was every bit as impressive as people say, though the many other churches and basilicas throughout the city are worth a reasonable, meandering walk to seek them out and experience the flow of the residential areas into piazzas, business districts, and other public spaces. The Basilica di San Lorenzo was especially worth the hike; and when you see it, take note of the colonnade out front that’s left from the structure that used to lead up to the old Roman road system. The complex itself is a magnificent three-dimensional view of the historical periods that built and folded together to make Milan what it is today.

And though the rain did keep us out of the parks for a few days, I was happy that we saved up the Friday full of sunny skies to visit Castello Sforzesco, the castle up the street from the Duomo that was built in the 15th century by the former Milan’s former duke, Francesco Sforza. It’s got works by da Vinci and Michelangelo among its treasures, and there’s a sprawling Parco Sempione behind it is a wonderful place to let a small kid burn off some energy and yell back and forth at a pond full of ducks.

Originally, I’d gone into the week hoping to make a day trip or two out of the city by train — Lake Como came up as the most likely option. In the end, however, I got a little shy over the weather and not wanting spend the hours of transit time necessary to end up in yet another storm.

Fortunately, Milan had plenty to offer, especially at Potafiori and Note di Cucina, the two real dining out experiences we got to experience as a family, the latter of which was for our wedding anniversary.